Friday, February 26, 2010

The first paradox

On Wednesday Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project postedNine Paradoxes to Contemplate as You Consider Your Happiness Project. I have been considering them and each one has some interesting implications or is quite foundational to the process of personnel growth. This will be the first in a serves where I explore each of the 9 paradoxes in detail so without further delay let's get started.

Accept myself, but expect more of myself.

When we put our feet open the path of person growth and development we cannot just dive in and start changing things. Doing this would be akin to buying a home to fix up and the next day walking in with a sledgehammer and smashing out walls without any concern for whether they are load bearing or not. If we do not first survey the territory of our lives and begin to understand what works and what does not then all the change is nothing more than random tinkering. We may get lucky and something might work but we still will not know why it worked.

Once we have an honest understanding of why we do what we do, knowledge of our victories and defeats we have to accept these as being true. Even if we know something but routinely deny its validity because we find the truth embarrassing or perhaps to insightful, we wind up pushing on a door that says to pull. Once we do except the truth we have a road map that will show us what we must work on, what strengths we must maintain as well as what weaknesses we need to work on.

This brings us to the second half of the paradox. Once we have accepted who we are and what we need to work on we can focus our growth, expecting more were we know it can be found. When we expect more of our selves we and deliver on that promise we build confidence and momentum. But more importantly when we expect more from ourselves we hold each of our actions to a higher standard and this does not affect only us. When we live up to this higher we become an example to others and a silent encouragement to change.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comfort for the comforter

Last night had the opportunity to watch a short documentary "Home is where you find it." It tells the story of Alcides Soares, young man living in Mozambique in his own words and his own images. This young man is only 16 and has been orphaned by AIDS, his family separated, one brother he has not seen in ten years. The film is a chronicles of his reunion with his brother and the support he gives his sister and the woman who took him in. there is so much that I could talk about based on this movie, the need for compassion, the strength of spirit, how to be thankful and be happy when you can. All of these are important things to understand but the one moment that truly called out to me in the film was a series of three shots.

In the first shot Alcides talks with is sister asking her what she wants. She tells him that she wants to be a family again, to have her little brother back with them and she starts to cry. Like a good brother Alcides puts an arm around her and comforts her saying don't cry don't cry. The second shot is Alcides's 'grandmother' the old woman he lives with, talking about how she would like to find his brother and have him live with them but she does not know how. She too begins to cry and again Alcides is there to comfort. The last shot of the sequence Alcides talks to the camera about how proud he is of his father, and how his father fought for the family. He begins to cry but there is no one there to comfort him.

How does this relate to our personal growth and development? We all have structures of reactions that we use in different situations, a way we react under stress, a way we deal with hardship and loss, a way we deal with joy. When we are constantly under stress we will put on a brave face and deal with what comes at us. This reaction is a lot like Alcides and his family, it comforts others, it tells others to be strong that things will be all right. In this sense the others are the worries and nagging doubts that threaten to disrupt our lives. We need to take time, when things are quite and when this part of ourselves does not have to be on guard to let it relax. This does not mean letting the worries take hold but instead letting the stress out whether in exercise or tears or laughter.

When we hold this stress in it eats away at us. We become cranky we become irritable and we can no longer bear the burdens that are required of us. The key here is making sure we let the stress out willingly, and in a controlled and constructive way.

The African Millennium Foundation is working with AIDs orphans in Mozambique to build a home of their own. If there is anything you can do to help please do, these are good people doing a great thing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Well here we are we have made it to the 100th post. It is definitely a mile stone of sorts and a rather surprising achievement in how quickly it seems to have snuck up on me. I am going to take this opportunity to muse about the blog and its effect on my life so far.

Since I have committed to writing these five days a week the blog has been a source of structure in my life. It gives me a place to start each day and rededicate my commitment to my own growth. Even when the topics I choose to talk about do not seem to be personnel in nature the very act of writing them is a meditation for me. As I am writing this I feel the gears shifting as all this reflection on the blog makes me give some thought to reflection in general.

Why is it that it takes nice round numbers or obviously important incidents to make us reflect on our lives? Reflection is part of the growth process were we take the time to look back and see how we have changed and the struggles we have overcome. It is that top of the mountain moment were we look out at our lives and see all we have accomplished as well as looking at what comes next.

This is not looking back and dredging up old horrors, or dwelling on failures. Instead it should be an affirmation of accomplishments and a search for lessons in our recent actions. Whether we succeed or fail in what we set out to do it is important we understand why things happened the way they did and use that information to guide our journey back to the path we wish it to take.

Taking time to reflect on should be part of our daily lives and is something I need to work on. I think I will set aside a few minutes at the end of each day to take stock and reflect on what I could do better as well as what I did well. I will let you know how this goes. What are your thoughts on reflection? Let me know and have a great day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another new beginning

So I am getting ready to take the plunge and start a business for myself. I am going to take what I have learned here and the changes I have made in my life and put them to work helping others set goals, learn self-confidence and understand what they mean by successes. I am terrified of doing this on several levels. But I also know this is something I can do, and need to do both to overcome the fear of it as well as for financial reasons. So I need to get a plan in gear and get started. First I need to exercise my demons.

In the past I have not had much luck working for myself. As an insurance agent I had trouble brining in clients and did not follow through very well on many of the small details of the business. Back then I was selling someone else's product and ideas and at the same time I learned some truly useful marketing skills. I know with a bit of effort I can develop a basis of clients and keep them coming back on a regular basis. This combined with referrals should be enough to get me started. As for the details and managing those it will be my own system of details rather than the rules of large, heavily regulated corporations dictating what is important. I have talked about taking back the battle field before and I think this is another one that needs reclaiming.

I also worry that I am not qualified to do this work. I am afraid I will give the wrong advice or that someone will take what I show them the wrong way. This is a silly thing to worry about because I give advice away for free every day and don't worry about it. People come to me with questions and I give honest responses. The problem I think comes from claiming to be an expert or an authority on anything. My qualifications are simply this: what I have done has worked for me and it can work for others.

The biggest fear I have though is that no one will want my help. I fear rejection more them pretty much anything else. I think this is what is truly at the root of my procrastination what if I start marketing myself and no one calls no one even take my number off the flyers. That thought terrifies me. This is what I have to work on now, not just in the context of the business but in the context of life in general. I will need to figure out a system I can use for this if any one has any suggestions let me know.

Thank you all for sitting with me as I fight back these negative thoughts. I would not even be considering this course of action if it was not for the great readers and commenter's I have had here. Your insights and encouragements have meant a lot to me and done wonders to help build my confidence. Once again thank you all and I will be back with more of my thoughts on personal growth and living the life we want to rather than the life society tells us to live tomorrow.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The next leg

When I first started writing Up From The Ashes I started posting my goals for the week every Monday. Some recent reader feed back has suggested that I bring this back (you can also read this as a kick in the ass from my sister.) So here we go, every Monday I will post up my goals for the week and I encourage you to share your goals with me in the comments. Starting next week I will also post how well I did on the goals I set for myself. In the past I have called this series of posts the goal post which I like but feel is a self-indulgent pun, and called shots which is an RPG nerd reference that is also self-indulgent. What I am trying to say is I can't find a name I like for this feature so if you have suggestions don't hesitate. The current title refers to the fact that I look at my goals as the next leg of my journey, so I think I will stick to that for now.

Goals for the week of 2/22/10

  • Finishes rough draft of Faith paper for critical thinking class
  • Find five clients for coaching business
  • Work out 4 times in seven days
  • Start getting up earlier and going to bed earlier
  • Schedule and plan for new D&D game

So there are my goals, what are yours?

Looking for a balance point

There is a balancing point we need to find in life between the realization of perfection and complacency of good enough. Some were between these two traps is a place where we can push ourselves and grown, tack pride in what we do but still do things and finish projects without endless tinkering. In this golden space of quality productivity confidence grows, work ethic increases and we can find happiness.

Good enough isn't. When we are working on a project and we look at it and say that is good enough what we are really saying is I could do this better but I don't want to put the effort in. That is a unacceptable attitude to have for any project we have put our time and energy in to. Good enough can spread through our lives like a wildfire once you let it in on one project it will spread to the next and the next and the next. Then one day we look up and find everything we do is half assed.

The other end of the spectrum is just as bad striving to perfect each and everything we do wastes our energy. We put more time and resources in to projects then they require or deserve and we have nothing to show for it. Striving for perfection can be all consuming looking to make everything just right we become obsessed with a project or idea forsaking other things that were once important in our lives. One day we look up from our incomplete master work and fins that it is all we have, everything else is gone.

What we need to strive for is work that is to the best of our ability. Here we push ourselves with each project creating something we can be proud of, and possibly learning some new techniques along the way. Weather we are working on a project at the office, doing our homework, or working on our own development the goal we need to have is to work to the best of our ability. When we become more skilled we grow more confident in our abilities and thus create a greater scents of self confidence. When work becomes rewarding, a place of success and pride we work harder, and we greet our projects as challenges to be overcome and bested rather than adversaries that will destroy us. These victories and growth in self confidence along with the scents of reward at having achieved something we can take pride in breed happiness and satisfaction.

So how do we find this balancing point?

Have expectations: When starting a new project, in those first few moments when inspiration and excitement still flourish, write or what you want to achieve. Later this will give let you see the target you are shooting for and give you an idea of the end point of the project. Be realistic in the expectations you set, these should be a guard against good enough not a phantasm tempting us in to the perilous realm of perfection.

Have a deadline: Setting a deadline will help keep you from over working an idea or process and straying too far towards perfection. Deadlines can be stressful so make sure you set realistic time frame for completing the task. If we front load to much stress into a project often times this will kill our enthusiasm for working on it.

Know what we are capable of: If we know what our best work is we can use it as a gauge to test our current efforts against. We can also use this knowledge to help us plan how we want to develop new skills.

Look for the balancing point where you can be proud of what you do without letting the quest for perfection consume you.

Friday, February 19, 2010

False idols and unintentional sacrifice

We talked yesterday about how powerful sacrifice can be up as with most things in life there is another side to sacrifice we must consider. Simply put we need to be aware of what we are already sacrificing and why. Every day we make sacrifices without thinking about it, any time we decide to do this instead of that we have potentially made a sacrifice. We need to be aware of these casual sacrifices and make sure that they are ones we are truly willing to live with.

Sometimes we put aside, or sacrifice our momentary happiness for others, this is not a bad thing, but we have to make sure that we do this in full knowledge of what we are giving up and be ok with this. If we are not honest with ourselves and give up more of our happiness for others then we are willing to this leads to resentment. Resentment is like acid to happiness eating away at everything good in a relationship until it is nothing more than a bubbling pile of dross. But this is only the most obvious type of unintentional sacrifice we must be on the lookout for.

What is worse is when we sacrifice our happiness on the altars of artificial desire. These altars are constructed by society, peers, advertisers and even churches to tell us what we need to be happy. These false idols do not ask what we want instead they make us believe that we want what they want us to want. If we do not define success four our selves then the world defines it for us, then we become "successful" we have the trapping and symbols that show the world what we have done but we do not have the joy that true success brings.

How do we spot these false idols? Not by looking at them but by looking inside.

Know your dreams: If we take the time to remember our dreams, our vision of the life we want this will keep us on track. If it helps you right it down and keep it with you at all times so you can look at your dream and test your choices against it.

Have a process: When we have an idea of how we are going to achieve something we are less likely to be distracted by the false promises of success that are offered to us every day. Think of it like this we go in to the world every day hungry to succeed much like we make the mistake of going to the grocery store when we are hungry. As we walk the isles of the grocery store we pick out the fating, fast easy foods that will damage our bodies but fill our bellies as soon as we get home. On the other hand if we enter the store hungry but armed with a list of what we are getting and the will power to implement that list then we come home with wholesome food that will nourish us and keep us satisfied longer. Having a set of goals that point towards the realization of our dreams works the same way. When we are tempted to cut corners and make sacrifices that do not fulfill our needs we can look to this process and say no that is not for me.

The dangers of unintentional sacrifice surround us every day. If we are not carful we will be sidetracked and set adrift chasing dreams that are not our own.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giving up can be good

The power of sacrifice in our lives is highly underrated. In our fast passed hectic world we often find ourselves doing too much but accomplishing little. Sacrifice can help with that. We find ourselves doing what feels good instead of what is good for us. Sacrifice can help with that as well. We find ourselves doing what is easy but sloppy instead of hard but rewarding. Yep sacrifice can deal with that as well.

I have a new year's tradition of sacrifice. For the month of January I give up refined sugar and meat. Then in February and March I only give up meet. I started doing this because I realized I was eating too much fast food and candy. The act of sacrificing these parts of my diet that I enjoyed focuses my attention on my diet forcing me in to better eating patterns. This year unfortunately has caught me off guard and I was not ready to start the tradition on time and in a way I miss it.

This principle of sacrifice and refocus is powerful. If we want to learn something new but feel we don't have time we can give up something and put the learning in its place. I think it is important here that we give up something we enjoy, not forever but for the time it takes to change habits. The sacrifice of a favorite activity adds weight and importance to the act that is replacing it. It creates value. Say we stop watching a TV show we like so we can spend more time reading, and do this willingly and from a place of true desire to change, the reading time becomes more important to us.

Let's take a minute to look at the qualifiers there. Sacrifice must be done willingly and from a place of true desire.

Willingness: Sacrifice loses its power when it is imposed from outside. If we are not willing participants in an act of sacrifice then it is not a tool for change but a form of punishment. But by giving up something willingly we create an attitude of devotion to the replacing idea or action.

A place of true desire: We must truly want to make the change in our lives for the sacrifice to work. If we do not believe what we are doing is important we will grow resentful of the process. This is not a way to achieve the things we should do but instead to focus ourselves on what we want to do.

When we approach sacrifice this way, of our own choosing and for a purpose we believe in we create a powerful environment for changing our lives. Sacrifice is a tool of dedication and reeducation that can show how important an idea or action is to you. There are also many things in our lives which are extraneous that seem to give us pleasure but are not constructive. When we give these up as a sacrifice for a while we sometimes find that they are not as important to us as we thought. Giving something up has a way of clarifying its importance to us. Can we go without or do we miss it each day? Am I less happy for not having its one thing in my life or am I better off without it? These are questions we have to ask ourselves inside the time of sacrifice as well as after.

Sacrifice is a powerful tool; use it wisely and well and you will be rewarded. Have a great day and if you have any thoughts feel free to share them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Acting positively

Optimism, pessimism and realism. These are ways we see the world, they are not tools of personal growth no matter what some people might tell you. All they are is descriptors of what information we emphasize when we information. The optimist notes the potential benefits of a situation, the pessimist the potential perils, and the realist tends towards the middle ground. The point here is that these viewpoints happen at the data gathering side of things not at the action side of events.

Acting positively is importune and can be done even if you are pessimistic in nature. By acting positively we increase the potential for a beneficial outcome and mitigate the perils in any given situation. The keys to acting positively are proper attitude, constructive results, and minimization of harm.

The proper attitude with which to approach positive action is one of acceptance if not joy. When we act positively we can not wine, we can not complain and we can not be a burden on those we labor with. Whining and complaining about the work we have to do comes from not excepting the necessity of the action. If we are doing something unnecessary that we do not want to do why are we doing it in the first place? If we are complaining about doing a necessary task we are taking away from working and making the work harder on those we are working with. If work is necessary then do it, set your frustration aside.

When we act positively we also need to consider the results that we are working for. Positive action will lay the ground work for future action and create opportunities rather than limit them. In acting positively we must go in to each and every situation with our eyes open, we must look with the eyes of the pessimist, the realist and the optimist. We have to see both the opportunities and the perils of a situation and work to maximize the rewards that a situation may provided. Constructive results will leave us with options while destructive results will leave us wondering what to do next.

The last aspect of positive action is the minimization of harm. When we act positively we have to consider more than just our own self interest. We have to take in to account how our actions affect those around us as well as how they affect our own future.

So when we take action we have to make sure we do it positively. If we do not we risk alienating others, damaging our selves, and sacrificing long term results for short term ones.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Type 2 procrastination

I have hit a point in my journey were I am starting to see old enemies reaper. The one I am most frustrated with today is procrastination. This is not the type of procrastination that I used to suffer from where I would put off doing things until they no longer needed to be done.

Instead this is the flavor of procrastination that says you can wait a little longer, that does not have to be now there is still time. There are differences between these types of procrastination. The first was an avoidance mechanism I created to keep me out of stressful situations. This new flavor is a degradation of my time management skills and more of a stress bringer then a stress avoider. So the question comes how to deal with procrastination type 2?

First I need to understand what drives my to put thing off in this fashion. It is simply this: the worry that if I don't do the fun thing I want to do now I will not get to. It is similar to my relationship with chocolate, if I have a little bit in the house I will not eat it very quickly, but if I know I am restricted from having chocolate I will get myself a bag of it and eat it all right then. The same is true if I feel I won't get to do what I want I will binge on it when I can even if it means waiting until the last minute to do the things that have a deadline.

The second step in dealing with this type of procrastination is to set a schedule. This has got to be part of it; returning to organizing my day in to times to study and times to play, times to cook and times to be at school. I have talked about decluttering and the downside to clutter in the past as it applies to both physical and mental space but I need to take the same attitude towards temporal clutter. The seconds, the moments and the jiffies must be grouped together like with like, my day divided in to cubby holes of purpose. In doing this it is also important to make the time to play.

This way when I am sitting in front of the TV watching a show or playing a video game I can be in that moment rather than thinking about the reading I need to do. When I am writing a paper for school or researching my nest speech my mind can be on that rather than getting in time for a video game.

How do you deal with type 2 procrastination in your life. Do you find that the root causes are different then type 1 procrastination?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Capturing inspiration

Over the weekend I had my first guest post published at uplift antidote. This great blog deals with being positive and moving forward, stop by and check it out it is well worth your time. The piece I wrought there was on inspiration and how to find it, however finding it is just part of the process you also have to save the inspiration and act on it. I will save acting on inspiration for another time today let's take a look on ways to save it.

Inspiration comes in a blinding flash it is there and we marvel at the potential of a new idea. How often does this happen when we have the tools handy to execute the idea, to make the thought real. So if we are out there looking for and finding inspiration in all things then we must have some way to store it tell we can get the time to work on it.

The simplest method is to carry a small note book were you can take notes on the idea, sketch quick visions of what you might want to create and otherwise trap the idea. This is a simple, cheap and effective way to capture inspiration in the wild.

The tool I like to use is my phone. Most phones have a few items built in that make them perfect for capturing inspiration when it hits. You can record a voice memo for yourself of the idea. This has a few benefits over pen and paper, if you are like me when inspiration hits the idea comes faster than the pen can write, my inspiration notebooks tend to be messy scrawls of chicken scratch. Voice memos also will capture your emotion at them moment of inspiration. Not only does this rekindle the fire of the idea but stokes the emotional blaze, that drive to create. The other tool built in to almost every phone these days that makes it powerful for capturing ideas is the camera. The camera can capture the image of the sunset that has so inspired us. Combined with a voice memo you have the idea and the source in one place.

If we are going to set off to hunt inspiration we must be prepared to bring it back to camp with us. Having the right tools with us at all times is important. If there are some methods to capturing information I have not mentioned I would love to hear about them. Have a great day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Your goals should be yours

When we decide it is time to grow as a person we often run about setting goals. We look outside our elves to books, to teachers and to blogs to tell us what we should work on. While these sources are great as sign posts if we do not look inside our selves we are still only working on the world's definition of successes. To truly find happiness and be successful we need to do it in a way that is as unique as we are and as personal as our private thoughts.

When deciding if our goals are our own we need to make sure that they meet certain criteria. Do they support our dreams? Are they in line with our values? Does it feed your passions? And dos it honor your commitments?

Dreams: When you day dream and let your mind wander over to the things you would like in your life where does it go. Think back to when you were younger and you knew you would do something great; what was it you dreamed of doing, how would you change the world?

Passion: What exits you what drives you on what gets your blood up? Passion gives us energy to push on to fight when the going gets tough. From passion comes resolve.

Values: We all have guiding principles. These core values help us make decisions and feel that we are doing the right thing. When we work towards a goal that does not fit our values we are left feeling like phonies and fakes.

Commitments: We make commitments to other people and to our selves every day. We must take these commitments seriously because they have a huge effect on how people see us. They affect how people expect us to act and therefore how we will act when we are around them.

When we set goals we need to think about these things and decide if this goal is something that comes from inside us or if it is the product of advertising and promotion. If we do change in to the person we want to be we will not be happy no matter how much work we do.

If you want to see these ideas in action, what it looks like when our passions, dreams, commitments and values all line up and are put in to action watch Jamie Oliver presenting his TED Prize wish.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting the thorn out

First I want to tell you a story we all know.

One day a lion was walking in across the savanna and stepped on a thorn with each limping step the thorn worked its way deeper into his paw. Roaring and growling in pain he approached the other animals but they were scared and fled from him and would not help. Try as he might he could not get the thorn out and finally the great king of beast flopped dejected on the dry ground and whimpered. A little mouse approached him and without fear asked what was wrong. When the lion explained the mouse helped him and went on his way.

Hearing this story we most often think about the character of the mouse, how he was brave and good natured. Sometimes we think about the character of the lion how his anger and reputation drove people away. What I want to look at today is the thorn. We all have thorns stuck in our paws whether we know it or not. We limp about life sometimes not even realizing that the thorn is there. Thorns can be anything we are holding on to old hurts, anger at ourselves and others, or maybe a frustration with circumstances. If we are lucky a friendly and helpful mouse will come along to get the thorn out for us but we cannot count on this.

Yesterday I realized that I still have a thorn in my paw; you might have seen me limping because of it yesterday. The thorn in my case is a fear of failure and the need despite current successes to prove to myself that I can succeed every day. And one thing I found was that while I know intellectually that failure only happens when you stop trying that does not always translate to the hart knowing. When did I pick up this thorn I am not sure but it has been there for quite a while.

The important thing is to recognize your thorns. Know that they are limiting your mobility and start trying to repair the damage a little at time. Pulling the thorn is just the second step; we do this when we remove the stimulus for the hurt from our lives. This may mean letting go of the hurt someone has caused you, or reminding yourself that one stumble is not a fall. After that comes the healing. The wound is still open and other things can get in there. A bit of anger may lodge like a stone in the cut. As we heal we need to pay attention to that wound and not let it fester. Being aware of ourselves and our mental state will help this. This is where I am at with my current thorn and would like to thank the helpful and courageous mice who stopped by yesterday with the tweezers and Bactine.

Have you pulled any thorns from your paws? What have you done to help the wound heal?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Morning Panic

Seeking inspiration is hard. Sitting down in the morning and looking a new blank document every day and trying to decide how to fill it with words that are not just true but meaningful and helpful to myself and others can be a monumental task. The clock starts to tick down and the time to leave for class draws near. Anxiety mounts and I worry is this going to be the day that I miss posting a blog? Then I decide no and start to write about what I am feeling at the moment.

The thing that bothers me most about this way of thinking is that it assumes I am going to mess up and miss posting one day. This would be devastating to me at this point, writing every day has become part of who I am and an element of my identity. Also each post here is a symbol to myself that I can change that I can commit to something and succeeds. So what do I do? When the anxiety mounts and the fear starts to build I just write. The writing its self turns in to a meditation for me calming the fears and putting to rest the worry.

My partner thinks I should remove this stress (as he sees it) from my morning and start writing at night. This may be the wise and possibly a better way to use my time but then I would miss out on the centering process of writing. I would also be without the victory I receive every day from getting the blog posted. So I would like to thank you for sharing these moments of panic and clarity with me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The building blocks of personal development

There are a lot of skills and techniques talked about when it comes to personal development. I think below all of the different methods of growth is a basic tool kit of traits that we use no matter the method. Each of these elements can be grown and built up and once you or I become strong in these areas the factors of our life that made us wish to change in the first place will be easier to deal with. When we combine these with a road map of goals and dreams our lives will be transformed, not suddenly and miraculously but over time the hard work will pay off.

Confidence: Without confidence in ourselves and in the tools we are using for personnel growth we can find it easier to doubt and give up on the tasks we set for ourselves. Self confidence also creates an attitude of presupposed success which can be very useful for keeping us motivated. Even if confidence is an area you struggle with by simply focusing on doing things you know you will be successful at you can build it. Each success you have in your day is another brick to add to the foundation of confidence.

Honesty: When we look at ourselves we need to admit the problems we are having honestly. When we hide the real issues we are dealing with from our selves we never get a chance to work on what the problem. At best we are only treating the symptoms. We also need to be honest about the factors that contribute to our successes, sometimes from a lack of confidents we tend to give the praise to others when we are deserving of that praise. Be honest about victories and failures and use them to learn.

Willingness: We must be willing to change. If we are just paying lip service to the ideas that personnel development is good for us but willing to make sacrifices or do hard work nothing will change. When we decide that we are going to grow and change then we stop being self defeating, we stop sabotaging ourselves and the work becomes much easier.

Perseverance: The power to keep going
when the going gets tough. Perseverance keeps us going; it is the stubborn mule that will not stop until it reaches the top of the hill. It also keeps us from failing, as long as we are willing to keep trying to do something we have not failed.

Willpower: This is the resistance to the things that would pull us down. Willpower can keep us from being diverted from our course of growth and change. If perseverance is the mule willpower is the reins keeping you on track and heading in the right direction.

Wisdom: The ability to discern what is good for us and the world and what is detrimental. Wisdom comes with experience; from learning from our successes and failures.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't jump on the kitchen counter

Once again my cat, Sunny, has proven to be a good teacher of life lessons. The first thing you need to know is that like most cats, Sunny hates the vacuum. When it comes out he impudently starts looking for a safe place to hide out. Over the weekend we were cleaning the house but did not want the kitty to get in the bedroom, where he normally would hide. Out came the vacuum cleaner and he started tearing around the living room and kitchen looking for somewhere he could escape the terrible beast. He finally deseeded to jump on the kitchen counter, this was an act of desperations, he knew it was somewhere he should not go but still it seemed better then facing is fear. We are all like that some time jumping to a bad place when we get scared.

Being scared primes us to react and unless we are watching our own actions we will probably do something we don't want to do. First of all we have to understand intellectually most things in our lives that scare us are not things that will kill us. We have time to think time to reason and most importantly time to plan our reaction. The last, planning our reactions, is crucial if we are not going to jump to a bad place. The time to trust our instincts is in the moments of near death, the car swerving towards us, tripping and falling, or someone jumping out in front of us on a dark street. These are the times were our flight or fight reflex kicks in and can do its job. However these are only a small percentage of the fear inducing situations we encounter on a regular basses in our modern world. What we most often run into is the fear of embarrassment, of looking out of place and being made to look the fool.

When we know we are going to be walking in to a scary situation, job interview, public speaking, or a hard talk with a spouse or child, we need to have a plan. Here are a few things we can do to keep our selves feeling safe and still keep from making matters worse.

Take a deep breath: When we get scared the body pumps out adrenaline giving us a little extra umfe to deal with the threat. Unfortunately this also makes us jumpy and a bit twitchy. Taking a deep breath brings more oxygen in to the body which will help cut the effects of the adrenaline surge.

Know where you are going: Chances are that you will know you are headed in to a scary place before hand. Knowing why you are there, what you want to accomplish and how you are going to get out is a great way to keep yourself from jumping on the counter so to speak.

Know where you don't want to be: Just as we can plan were we are going we can be aware of where the bad place to jump to is. When having a hard talk with the special people in our lives it is easy to push their buttons just to get a reaction. This does not make them more receptive to us.

Control your body: If we stand strait and tall and adapt a posture of confidence that will trigger us to act in a more confident manor. When we are feeling more confident the effects of fear diminish. So before you walk in to your personal lion's den take control of your body set yourself and then walk in.

Control your mouth: When we are tense and nervous we will try to fill the silence, especially in an awkward social situation. If we do not pay attention to what we are saying we can often do more harm than good.

When the vacuum cleaner of life is chasing you around what do you do to make sure you don't jump on the counter? Let me know in the comments and have a beautiful day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Under the hood of the onion

We are onions. Do you know why onions make us cry? There is a chemical reaction that occurs when you break through there layers that creates a weak version of tear gas. So I will say it again we are onions. We put on layers of personality that cover up our root self and when these layers are broken it can cause emotional distress, even tears. The problem with these layers is that they make it harder to see ourselves and they create false stresses in our lives. Now don't get me wrong these layers of self image protects the fragile core of our being from the rough and tumble nature of our world and this is an important and necessary function. However if we are ever to truly change and grow we have to look past our shields and see in to our own hart.

So wear to do these layers come from? I don't want to start a debate over nature and nurture, but I think they both play a role in the building of identity. These layers are constantly shifting, they come from our attitude towards our country, our social circles, sports teams we support, churches we go to hell it can even come from the blogs we read. The layers are the adjectives we use to describe ourselves look at me for example some of my layers are gay, gamer, male, student, liberal, smart cat owner. These are ways I see myself and more importantly ways that I can feel vulnerable when people want to insult me. We get defensive when our layers are challenged; we see this as an attack on who we are.

However these layers are more than just targets for hurt feelings. Think of them as the hood of your car underneath it is yourself awareness that which dives you that bit that makes you human. Without the armor of these layers it would be exposed to the world. Better to set a few targets out to let the world take shots at then to risk damaging the self. Sometimes big events, deaths, births, car accidents blow holes in these layers of protection and we have a life changing event. These are the moments when we see ourselves and start to see the need for change in our lives.

Once this process has begun we can start learning how to lift the hood and work on the engine. This is the process of personnel growth, the process of transforming our lives from what they are to what we want them to be. The trick to lifting the hood and seeing through the layers is introspection. An honest and unrelenting, unflinching look at who we are and why we make the choices we do is the only way we can know our selves. There are many techniques for doing this, some find meditation helps, I prefer writing. The important thing is to find a time a place and a method where you can look at yourself and take an honest assessment of who we are.

To all of you who have, like me, taken upon yourself the labor of becoming a better person, a happier person: congratulations! We are not alone in this. While the work is hard and the road can be long we can do this we can change and make life what we want it to be. Understanding the ways we define ourselves is an important first step and seeing below those definitions is just as important. Have a great weekend and if you agree with me or disagree leave me a comment.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Knowing and wisdom

"Knowing enough is enough to know"~ Tao te Ching

"Little did he know. That means there's something he doesn't know, which means there's something you don't know, did you know that?"~ Stranger then Fiction

I have talked a lot of wisdom lately but not about wisdom. To understand the idea of being wise you first have to understand the limits of your own understanding. At the heart of wisdom is being able to accept that there are things you do not know and more over things that you cannot know. In the U.S. we are trained taught and expected to have an opinion on everything whether we have the facts or not. It is almost a sin to say the words "I don't know"

We need to accept the fact that there are things we don't know and limits to what we can know. Admitting this opens doors for personnel growth by showing us areas of study and research for us to explore. It also builds integrity. If we are willing to tell someone "I don't know" they understand intuitively that we are credible on the information we provided. If there is one lesson I took from being an insurance agent it was this. It is better to say admit the lack of knowledge and offer to fallow up with research on the matter then to give bad advice.

At the heart of wisdom I think is an understanding of our place in the world, our knowledge of the world and our knowledge of ourselves. Knowing were the boundary of this understanding lies is just as important as knowing what is within the boundary. When we hide behind veils of false knowledge we blur this line, it is like knowingly stepping out on thin ice. We put ourselves in moral danger, not just because we represent ourselves as something we are not but also because we by in to the lie.

If you are interested in furthering your education then I don't know serves as a guide post showing us places we can explore. The beauty of this is when we fallow the signs of I don't know we are almost always led in to territory that is relevant for us in some fashion. We are here because we encountered the idea in the wild and after that encounter decided it will be beneficial to look at this more closely. In less intellectual matters the sign post points us to times we need to sit down with friends and talk something out, we need other ideas to stimulate our own way of thinking and clarify the haze of indecision.

So in seeking wisdom remember that we need to be aware of the boundaries of our knowledge as well as what we know. We need to be willing to admit that we have limitations and then work to remove them. And we need to know that integrity and honesty are more important than looking knowledgeable and important.

** I would like to mention that this post was inspired by a great post at Why not start now

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Myths and symbols

Have you taped in to the power of your personnel mythology to transform your life? Does this question make me sound like a new age fruit cake? What the hell is personal mythology any way? Why is Quinn asking so many questions today? Why would I want to use personnel mythology in my life any way?

Personal mythology is simply the stories we tell our selves and the symbols that are important to us in our daily lives. We crate myths of why we are success full and why we fail. These myths are built of the excuses and the limiting factors that a lot of times hold us back as well as the fictions that help us succeed. The mythology also holds for us the symbols that represent success and achievement in our minds.

We can use our mythology in a number of ways first of all we need to debunk it, then we need to reinforce it and then we need to look for it.

Debunk and reinforce

These two go hand in hand as we find parts of our mythology that detract from our lives we must debunk them and throw them out. On the other hand we also need to reinforce the stories and ideas that help us to succeed. Let's look at some examples.

You are part of a team working hard on a difficult task and manage to not only get it completed but do it well. In this situation we might tell ourselves that the success was not real yours it was the teams we could have not done it alone.

This sort of myth devalues our selves, erodes confidence and downplays our contribution to the goal. We need to be thankful for the help others have given us but we need to recognize that we were a vital part of the team as well. This is debunking, removing the poisons parts of stories that hold us back.

Another example: You are working on a project and become stuck so you desired to take a shower and relax for a bit. While you are in the shower an idea comes to you that unlock the problem you were facing.

The mythology here is that the shower provides inspiration, while this may or may not be true we can reinforce this by repeating the situation when we get stuck. This creates an environment where we are prepared by our mythology to be receptive to inspiration.

These are just a few examples of how we can edit out our negative misconceptions and use the power of stories to create a fertile environment for success.


Even more powerful then the stories we tell ourselves is the symbol set we create in our lives. Symbols as we are talking about them here are objects, ideas, words, numbers, colors that we attach personnel meaning to. The power of symbols is that they cut to the very core of our being like a bolt of lightning. Part of the problem is when we are asked or ask ourselves what is my symbol set we often don't know.

For me a potent symbol is my engagement ring, I know when I am down I can look at it and it will remind me I am loved, but it does more. When I am in a hard place and not wanting it to go on it tells me that what I am doing is not just for me. And these are just a few of the associations I have with this simple band of mettle and bit of carbon.

This is the power of symbols they can pick us up when we are down. They can guide our cores, effecting our decision making process by guiding us toward positive symbols and away from negative ones. The problem with this is that it is a largely subconscious process; by taking time to understand our mythology and the symbols that it creates we can have a more conscious understanding for decision making process. We can also create spaces with our positive symbols to reminded us of our purpose and reenergize us when life gets rough.

So take the time to listen to the stories you tell yourself, edit them and use them. Taking control of this mythology will give you more control over your actions today and your mindset for the rest of your life. Understanding the symbols that guide you, energize you and drain the energy from you will likewise give you more control over that energy and help you to map the course of your life.

So do you still think I am talking like a new age fruit cake? Figured out why I am asking so many questions? (If you have let me know in the comments I have been trying to understand my propensity for leading with a question for a few weeks now). All right folks have a great day and if you find this interesting or helpful share it with your friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Overloaded at the salad bar

Some days I think I need a bigger plate. As usual when I start getting in to a good creative place in my life I overfill my schedule with all the things I want to do. TO much school, blogging and gaming and I start to feel overloaded. At the same time this is the place where I perform best at, when I look back at my life the times I am happiest when I have overscheduled my life with things I want to do. The habit of over scheduling myself has its pros and cones.

The advantages of over scheduling

I am fortunate right now that everything on my plate is something I want to be there, indeed there is not a lima bean or brusle sprout in sight. This overabundance of things I want to do has the added effect of focusing my time and actually allowing me to get more done. When there is not a constant time pressure then I slack and wait for a time I feel like working on a project. Under that situation there is always a video game to play or a funny picture to look at on the internet. When I have spared myself a bit too thin these distractions start to fall away (well for the most part).

Also I find that when I have a lot of work to do I become more creative. The parties of writing each day for example keeps my brain prepped and ready to produce. Since I have moved the blog to a daily schedule I find that ideas flow more readily and organize themselves more coherently. I have created a habit of inspiration which so far is serving me well. I do not know if I would be able to maintain this sort of energy without a deadline hanging over my head

The disadvantages of over scheduling

Some projects however do not get the attention they deserve. For example my second blog only gets a post now and then. Even though it is about my gaming hobby it does not get much love. The same is true for a few other newer projects I would like to start. There is not enough time in the day for me to truly commit the energy I want to them.

I also sometimes find myself having to make room for the people in my life. This in my opinion is the biggest negative. In the long run I value family and friends over projects so I have to constantly strive to balance my work against my life.

Another downside to my overcrowded schedule is that the parts of projects that don't interest me are what does not get done. I should take the time to prep for game sessions setting up the encounters before I sit down at the table but most of the time I wing it. And that is just one example. Even the projects I focus on the most do not get done to the highest standard that they could.

In the end however I don't think half of the things I start would even get off the ground if I did not have so much to work on. So for now I will put up with good enough over never finished. I think in the next few weeks I will work to refine my schedule and build in time for the projects that have not gotten the attention they deserve. The other thing that worries me is how long can I keep this state of high yield production running. If I do it long enough will it become habit, I hope so, I like it here in the high octane world of overworking myself.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Meet adversity head on

Life will throw you curve balls, it's a given. Sometimes we hit them out of the park and we see them as opportunities. Other times we pick up a strike and move on. Then there are the times that the pitch hits us. What do you do when the random and tumultuous nature of life leaves you hurting, emotionally, physically, and financially? Often times when this sort of trouble comes in to your life the only on you have to count on is yourself and those whose lives are tide to yours, spouses lovers parents and siblings. While this help from outside is nice and useful the most important resource we have is our own attitude in the face of adversity.

The first thing to understand is to make time for grief. Every situation will be different sometimes there is an opportunity for grief and regret out front other times action is needed right away and we must put our feeling aside and get the job done. Either way it is important to understand that grief and sadness are natural and should be allowed to take their course. When we work too hard to push these so called negative emotions out of our lives we create more emotional baggage for ourselves.

When life has hit us with a gut punch it is easy to retreat and curl up in a nice safe place and shut the world out. This does not work; the hardships and bad times in our lives are patient bullies. They are willing to wait outside our door all day and night while we hide in our beds but when we step outside they are ready to take our lunch money once again. Like a bully the problems in our life only go away when we stand up to them. Action is the key to overcoming. As finding the right time to grieve will be different each situation has its own set of actions that need to be taken in order to find resolution.

These actions are not always obvious or clear or easy that is one reason it is important to have a network of support in place. We all must have our trusted advisers, those people who we can turn to who we know have our best interest at hart. This is another key to overcoming hardship we should not do it alone. When we find ourselves in adversity it often times will bruise our ego and we become afraid of what people will think of us if they find out. Those people in your life who love you love you. They want what is best for you and will help you in any way they can. It should be noted here that a true friend will most likely give the help that we need (if they are able) rather than the help that we want. Be grateful for the help that is given whether it was what you asked for or not.

The other key element to overcoming adversity is to learn. Every hard ship and every joy in our lives brings lessons we can learn. We can come to understand ourselves better and we can figure out what we did to contribute to the situation at hand. We can see the things we did or the things we did not do that caused a situation to come in to existence and in the future devise a plan to change our course of action. This is not just a key to overcoming hardship this is a key to growing as a person: learn from your mistakes and your accomplishments in equal measure.

So when life gets ruff and scary take a moment to gather your thoughts, your emotions and stand up to the monsters and beasts in your life. Only through rational, responbul action and the help of good friends can we get through the tuff times.